Will The Great 8 Catch The Great One?

Alex “The Great 8” Ovechkin is one of the best goal scorers in NHL history, and continues to put up impressive numbers in his mid 30s. In fact, for the first time in his career, just last year at the age 34, he scored more goals than anyone in NHL history at his same age.

In terms of cumulative goals scored, only Wayne Gretzky scored more goals by age 35, so most of the others above him on the all time list are going to be easy to catch, barring serious injury.

Wayne Gretzky will be tough to beat, and Covid is not helping. The 2021 season has been shorted by Covid, and Ovechkin was forced to miss an additional two weeks of hockey due to possible Covid exposure.

Gretzky peaked in his early 20s, and had the fortune of playing on an offensive powerhouse during the high scoring 1980s, so it’s safe to say that Ovechkin is a better goal scoring talent even if he never catches him.

Perhaps the only players in NHL history who were better than Ovechkin at putting the puck in net have already been passed. Mario Lemieux was sidelined with cancer right as he was hitting peak stride and later suffered from back injuries. Meanwhile, Mike Bossy retired at age 30 from back injuries. Both were ahead of Alex Ovechkin when their health failed.

My prediction is that Ovechkin plays until he passes Gretzky, and then retires, perhaps around age 42.

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Is Della Falls the Tallest Waterfall in Canada?

First, lets address the core of the issue. Della Falls stands 1,443 feet tall per the Atlas of Canada. Nearly all of the information we have seen which perpetuates the idea that Della Falls is Canada’s tallest cite the Atlas of Canada as the definitive source. Topographic data from multiple sources – including the Atlas of Canada – has thus far backed up the claimed height of 1,443 feet, so we have little reason to think the height of the falls is anything but (relatively) accurate. What this means then is that, for this claim to be true, there should be no other waterfall in Canada which is taller than Della Falls. The problem, however, is that there are. Lots. There are 22 waterfalls inventoried throughout Canada which stand at least 1,444 feet tall.

The first argument usually put up against debunking this myth is that Della Falls is a free-leaping waterfall and none of the other waterfalls which are taller than Della Falls are truly free-leaping, and hence shouldn’t count. The biggest problem with this counter-argument is that Della Falls itself is not a free leaping waterfall. In fact, Della Falls could be considered to be a waterfall of three distinct leaps. It isn’t so much a traditional Tiered type waterfall in that there are not distinct pauses in between each of the three vertical portions of the falls, but there are “pauses” of sorts where the creek cascades steeply down bouldery substrate instead of over bedrock – either way, it certainly isn’t free falling. This issue aside, the only truly free-leaping part of the falls is the uppermost 400 feet (approximately) of the drop, below there the creek retains some contact with the bedrock for the remaining descent.



Point 1 marks the very top of the falls, at (approximate) elevation of 1,040m. Point 2 marks the bottom of the initial and most vertical drop of the falls. This point is approximately 460 feet below and 190 feet to the east of the top of the falls. Point 3 marks the top of the second steep part of the falls, where the stream has split into two main channels. Between points 2 and 3, the stream loses another 200 feet in elevation but flows laterally for 200 feet. From Point 3 to Point 4, which represents the bottom of the second steep part of the falls, the stream loses about 530 feet in elevation while flowing laterally for about 460 feet. From Point 4 to Point 5 the stream flows about 230 feet laterally while losing only about 30 feet in elevation. From Point 5 in the photo to Point 5 on the map, the final drop of 200 vertical feet in 130 lateral feet takes place. So, once again it looks like Della Falls does indeed fall 1,443 feet, but it does it in a run of over 1,200 feet – an average pitch of about 50 degrees, which can hardly be considered vertical.

Clearly Della isn’t a vertical waterfall and can’t be considered Canada’s tallest based on that criteria. So, for the sake of argument lets address the claim that Della Falls is Canada’s tallest waterfall based on the idea that it is a single non-vertical waterfall of 1,443 feet in height. What we now have to figure out is whether any of these 22 other waterfalls which we already know to be taller than Della Falls based on total height are in fact taller in one non-vertical drop. Many of them are, in fact, multi-step non-vertical waterfalls which don’t meet the criteria right away. Bedard Falls, Bush Mountain Falls and Storey Peak Falls, for example, all flume down the side of their respective mountains – in some places vertically, but mostly in multiple slides or cascades. Others, such as Madden Falls and Michael Falls may drop vertically, but they do so over a series of steps which can’t be considered to be a single drop in even the most liberal of sense.

But whittling down the list, we find three candidates which do appear to legitimately oust Della Falls based on any claim made; Kingcome Valley Falls, Bishop Falls and Cerberus Falls. The unofficially named Kingcome Valley Falls, deep within the coast mountains, drops some 1,700 feet off a nearly sheer bluff. The drainage area is tiny and though it may flow for most of the year, it almost certainly runs dry at some point in the season and even at its best isn’t a waterfall of significant volume. Certainly a taller waterfall, but for some perhaps not considered “significant” enough to be thought of as a legitimate waterfall.

Bishop Falls, found in the Taku River valley about 75km northeast of Juneau, Alaska, is a lofty fall of moderate to high volume (at least during the warmer months). To the best of our knowledge, it hasn’t been measured by any group. The most conservative estimates place it to be around 1,450 feet in height, which puts it right around the size of Della Falls. However, its true height may be closer to 1,600 feet when all is said and done. Proving this, however, will necessitates on-site surveying. Also note that while Bishop Falls is technically classified as a single-drop waterfall, it does have a “step” of sorts about a third of the way down, but this step is of significantly smaller size than those that are present in Della Falls itself, so it should not be looked at as a disqualifier.


Cerberus Falls is found along Icefall Brook at the head of Icefall Canyon in the heart of the Canadian Rockies about 70km north of Golden, British Columbia. We don’t have to second guess this one, because members of the World Waterfall Database surveyed and measured Cerberus Falls with both a laser rangefinder and GPS positioning in August of 2010. They found the falls to stand 1,558 feet tall, possibly more depending on how a secondary stream parallel to the main falls proves to be influence by the source glacier. Not only is this waterfall a full 100 feet taller than Della Falls, but it’s a nearly vertical, single drop of 1,558 feet.

So, in summary, yes Della Falls is as tall as it is claimed to be, but it is not a vertical waterfall so it cannot be considered to be the tallest vertical waterfall in Canada, and if Della Falls is to be considered a single-drop waterfall – which is debatable in itself – it cannot be considered the tallest single-drop waterfall because there are other single-drop waterfalls which are taller. So, ultimately, Della Falls cannot be considered the tallest waterfall in Canada by any metric.

So why then has Della Falls been considered to be the tallest waterfall in Canada for so long? The answer is simply publicity. Della Falls was discovered in 1899 and was romanticized quickly by the tales of early visitors. Strathcona Provincial Park, the first in British Columbia, was established shortly after in 1911 and the notoriety of the falls surely added to the reasons for protecting the area. But on top of that is the fact that the falls lay on crown (government) land, and as a result the government has no doubt publicized information about the falls countless times. This is significant because when quantifiable information – such as the height of mountains or waterfalls – is compiled, government entities are generally viewed as a reliable source. So, if Della Falls was at one time thought to be the tallest waterfall in Canada according to the Canadian government, chances are that information simply propagated outwards from there without anyone thinking to fact check it because its ultimate source was thought to be accurate. What’s funny is that any ordinary person knows just how inefficient and inaccurate any governing body can be. Just goes to show that questions should always be asked, no matter the source of information.

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2021 Property Tax Increases Across British Columbia

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What is the largest Pacific river in North America?

Yukon River delta as seen by satellite

For some reason, whenever the discussion comes up about the largest rivers, everyone talks about length as if that’s the most important metric. In my view, it’s the least interesting, and only shows which river basin is long and skinny. The Nile is famous for being long and skinny, but it’s volume and drainage basin area is a small drop in the bucket compared to the Amazon.

The other thing about length is that it’s somewhat subjective. Are we just following the river that bears the name or are we following up the longest tributary? If we follow just the name, the Nile is longer than the Amazon, but if we trace the tributary that will give the longest distance, the Amazon is longer.

But enough about that age old comparison, let’s juxtapose the largest North American rivers flowing into the Pacific ocean. For this exercise, I did not include the tributaries. If I had, then some of the largest ones of the Yukon, Fraser, and Columbia would be on all three graphs.

The location is the jurisdiction at the mouth (although the volume of the Colorado River is measured in Topock, AZ because that’s the location of maximum volume). 18 rivers were included in the following three graphs because the same 18 make the cut on each chart (if 16 rivers were included instead, for example, then one of the “top 16” for volume would be off the “top 16” list for length).

Let’s start with length.

This one surprised me. I did not realize that the Yukon was that much longer than any of the other rivers, nor did I expect that the Colorado was longer than the Columbia.

Next, let’s compare the rivers by drainage basin size.

Once again the Yukon is far ahead of the others. Perhaps most surprising to me is that the Fraser is less than half that of the Colorado, and under 1/3 the size of the Yukon and Columbia.

Finally, let’s do a volume comparison.

Because of the desert conditions in the Colorado River basin (along with irrigation and other water uses), the river drops down to 11th spot. Since the Columbia (along with the Fraser) drains the world’s only temperate interior rain forest, it moves up to first spot.

So what’s the largest Pacific river in North America?

Well, that depends on how you define “largest,” but if we’re talking about the amount of water flowing into the ocean, it’s the Columbia.

Similar to length, volume is also hard to measure because the measuring point for the mouth is often 100s of kilometers inland to avoid the effects of tidal water getting in the way. For example, the Fraser is measured at Hope, which is over 100km inland.

A river’s drainage basin size is my favourite way of comparing sizes, so I’m inclined to name the Yukon as the largest Pacific river in North America.

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Most Games Played by Decade

This month the New York Rangers decided to buy out the remainder of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract. He has been one of the best goalies in the league for a long time, but the 38 year old Lundqvist is one of the oldest goalie in the NHL today, so the team wants a younger man between the pipes.

I was thinking about the fact that no one else has played more regular season games in the league over the past decade than “King Henrik,” and wondered what it would look like to chart the top 5 goalies each decade, ranked them by games played.

Before breaking things down by decade, here is a table showing every goalie who played in at least 500 games in any given decade.

Terry Sawchuk6351950s
Tony Esposito6351970s
Martin Brodeur6292000s
Patrick Roy6001990s
Ed Belfour5891990s
Roberto Luongo5882000s
Curtis Joseph5721990s
Evgeni Nabokov5522000s
Henrik Lundqvist5492010s
Carey Price5482010s
Rogie Vachon5461970s
Pekka Rinne5462010s
Marc-Andre Fleury5452010s
Mike Liut5431980s
Mike Richter5301990s
Jonathan Quick5252010s
Greg Millen5191980s
Glenn Hall5161960s
John Vanbiesbrouck5131990s
Bill Ranford5111990s
Marty Turco5092000s
Sergei Bobrovsky5072010s
Tomáš Vokoun5042000s
Devan Dubnyk5012010s

Generally speaking, a goalie’s career is not long enough to put him near the top in two different decades, but there were six exceptions, and half of them were born in 1929: Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, and Terry Sawchuck. These were the last three goalies to make the top 5 in two separate decades (1950s and the 1960s). They are also the youngest dead goalies as of 2020.

Because these three were still playing at the age of 40 in 1970, and because the only two men who played more games than them during the 1960s were also seasoned veterans (Johnny Bower was even older), the average age of a top 5 goalie in the 1960s was 10 years higher than either of the previous two decades and 5 years higher than the 2nd oldest decade (1930s).

Let’s look at a graph to see what I mean.

The above graph shows the average age for all five men at the beginning and the end of the decade. Taking the most recent ten year period, we have Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne born in 1982, Marc-Andre Fleury born in 1984, Jonathan Quick born in 1986, and Carey Price born in 1987. So the average age of these goalies in 2010 was 25.8 years old, and by 2020 they were collectively 35.8 years old.

Notice how all the 2010 goalies were born in the 1980s. This generally holds for other decades with the goalies being born two decades earlier, but the 1960s was the exception with 4 out of 5 goalies being born in the 1920s, and the lone 1930s goalie was Glenn Hall, born in 1931.

The lone 1930s representative is the oldest goalie still alive today. Everyone younger is still alive because there’s a massive age gap between Hall and the next oldest goalie on the list, Tony Esposito, who was born in 1943.

Tony Esposito was the top goalie in the 1970s, playing 635 games. The only other person to play this many games in a decade was Terry Sawchuk in the 1950s, also playing 635 games. Just two other goaltenders ever managed 600 games in a decade. The first was Patrick Roy in the 1990s and the last was Martin Brodeur who played 629 games in the 2000s. If there was no cancelled season in 2004/05 due to the labour lockout, Brodeur could have easily beaten the Sawchuk-Esposito record. But he didn’t.

NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Henrik Lundqvist1982Sweden54933
Carey Price1987BC54828
Pekka Rinne1982Finland54633
Marc-Andre Fleury1984Quebec54531
Jonathan Quick1986Connecticut52529
The 2010s decade was the second time ever that no goalie from Ontario made the list (the same thing happened in the 1960s).

NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Martin Brodeur1972Quebec62933
Roberto Luongo1979Quebec58826
Evgeni Nabokov1975USSR55230
Marty Turco1975Ontario50930
Tomáš Vokoun1976Czechoslovakia50429
The 2000s was the first decade featuring European goalies
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Patrick Roy1965Quebec60030
Ed Belfour1965Manitoba58930
Curtis Joseph1967Ontario57228
Mike Richter1966Pennsylvania53029
John Vanbiesbrouck1963Michigan51332
The 1990s is the only decade with multiple American goaltenders
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Mike Liut1956Ontario54329
Greg Millen1957Ontario51928
Reggie Lemelin1954Quebec43431
Pete Peeters1957Alberta41828
Grant Fuhr1962Alberta41023
The 1980s was the highest scoring decade in NHL history, and the goalkeeping was weak. Only Grant Fuhr is in the Hall of Fame on this list, whereas all other decades feature multiple Hall of Famer players (or at least future Hall of Famers for recent decades).
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Tony Esposito1943Ontario63532
Rogie Vachon1945Quebec54630
Gilles Meloche1950Quebec46425
Jim Rutherford1949Ontario41826
Ken Dryden1947Ontario39728
Thee 1970s was the last time that all top goalies were from Quebec or Ontario.
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Glenn Hall1931Saskatchwan51634
Johnny Bower1924Saskatchwan37041
Gump Worsley1929Quebec36636
Jacques Plante1929Quebec33336
Terry Sawchuk1929Manitoba32936
Johnny Bower, Gump Worsely, and Jacques Plante remain the three oldest goalies in NHL history (excluding emergency goalies)
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Terry Sawchuk1929Manitoba63526
Harry Lumley1926Ontario47829
Al Rollins1926Saskatchwan42829
Gump Worsley1929Quebec39526
Jacques Plante1929Quebec39026
All of the most active goalies in the 1950s were born in either 1926 or 1929.
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Frank Brimsek1915Minnesota42330
Walter ‘Turk’ Broda1914Manitoba40931
Bill Durnan1916Ontario38329
Harry Lumley1926Ontario32519
Chuck Rayner1920Saskatchewan28625
The 1940s saw the first non-Canadian raised goalie make the list. Harry Lumley was the youngest goalie to ever play in the NHL.
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Tiny Thompson1903BC46532
Dave Kerr1910Ontario38225
George Hainsworth1893Ontario29142
Roy Worters1900Ontario28635
Wilf Cude1910Wales27825
Besides Carey Price, Tiny Thompson is the only goalie from BC to be top five material. While Wilf Cude was born in Wales, he grew up in Canada.
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
John Roach1900Ontario31025
Clint Benedict1892Ontario29833
Alex Connell1900Ontario24225
Roy Worters1900Ontario19825
Jake Forbes1897Ontario19628
Clint Benedict was the best goalie in the NHA/NHL for most of his career. Roy Worters was the shortest goalie to ever play in the NHL.
NameBornGPAge at middle of decade
Georges Vezina1887Quebec20128
Clint Benedict1892Ontario14323
Paddy Moran1877Quebec13338
Percy LeSueur1881Quebec11934
Bert Lindsay1881Ontario8634
While a typical season was only 24 games long, it’s still an impressive feat that Georges Vezina played 15 straight seasons without missing a game. If he hadn’t have contracted tuberculosis and died in 1926, he’d probably still be playing in the NHL at the age of 133.

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Speaking English is Unique in its Ability to Spread Covid?

Articles like this have been making the rounds this month, highlighting research that points to speaking English as a particularly dangerous language for spreading viruses.

The interesting part for me is that their research stopped at English because the Covid death data reveals a very strong pattern between language and death rates, and it’s not English at the top of the chart.

All of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest Covid death rates have high romance language speakers.

(As an aside, it has just dawned on me that the French province of Quebec has by far the highest Covid death rate in Canada, perhaps for the same reasons.)

Anyway, the data (as of September 25th, 2020) shows the top 10 Covid-19 death rate nations in the world are:

And of course, just outside of the top 10 are Italy and Mexico (along with the UK).

I am not making a scientific claim connecting language and virus spreading, only pointing out the interesting observation that there appears to be very strong correlation between a high death rate and the prevalence of romance languages.

Posted in Geography, politics | Leave a comment

Misleading Graphs

I love charts and maps as much as the next guy, but most of the graphs I come across — even in respected newspapers like the New York Times — are lacking even an attempt at rudimentary accuracy. This is extremely annoying.

Today’s example is meant to show you which climatic variable is most likely to cause disaster in each county/borough in the United States.

At least they did put it in the “Opinions” section on account of this just being someone’s personal opinion about climate change impacts.

Unfortunately, the average person would likely assume there’s some sort of scientific rigor behind the graphic.

My immediate assumption was that this graph had some science behind it — that was until I clicked on a couple of areas I’m familiar with. The first was Skagway, Alaska where the graph claims that sea level rise is the major problem!

To the average observer (and to the author who never bothered gathering data beyond “oh, look, the town sits by the ocean!”), this would make sense, but in reality, the land is being pushed out of the ocean along the panhandle of Alaska four times faster than the ocean is rising. Therefore, sea level is dropping, and shows no sign of slowing down.

Next, I clicked on the county south of where I live (Okanogan county), and the interactive map states that wildfire risk is medium risk while everything else is low risk. And yet, it spits out “extreme rainfall” as the greatest climate threat in this dry, semi-arid region. It’s hard to explain that one.

In another very dry area, the interior of Alaska, I was expecting to see extremely cold temperatures as the biggest climatic problem, but it also chose extreme rainfall as the greatest climate threat. I supposed that climate change is a lot like modern racism (defined as prejudice plus power) in that a climate threat can only be from a variable thought to be increasing in frequency due to human caused emissions. So if cold kills 1000 people per year and floods kill 2, floods are the real threat because in 100 years there will only be 200 people killed by extreme cold and 20 killed by floods.

Still, if we are going to pick a variable that’s a big problem in Alaska, why not pick melting permafost that is linked to climate change instead of precipitation that models are uncertain about with respect to climate change?

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The Truth About Temperature Records


Multiple times per year I see stories like this or this exclaiming that we broke yet another temperature record, but the full context is never provided.

These articles fall short for two main reasons.

  1. They do not convey to the reader how common new temperature records are.
  2. The do not provide enough context that would inform the audience how impressive or unimpressive the new record is relative to surrounding daily records.

To show you what I mean, let’s just take a single example from the most recent article discussing the records set on July 30, 2020.

Osoyoos hit a sweltering 39.3 C [103.7 F], beating the decades-old previous record of 38.3 C set in 1971.

Records have been kept in the town that bills itself as “Canada’s warmest welcome” since 1954.

Now, from reading those two sentences you cannot tell if this was a temperature record that you’d see every year or if it’s one you might not see in 100 years.

Hint: Even though this temperature did occur at the height of summer, it’s a temperature that Osoyoos typically has every year.

Before we look at the graphs that prove is, let’s first consider how common it is for daily temperature records to occur at all. Osoyoos has weather data stretching back 66 years to 1954, so that means there is a 1 in 66 chance of an extreme maximum temperature being set today (and a 1 in 66 chance of an extreme minimum being set).

Given there are 365 days in the year (we will ignore the leap year aspect to make it simple), the odds of at least one new temperature record in Osoyoos this year was 99.6%. Remember that fact the next time a news item tries to impress you with a new daily record.

Knowing that the probability of a new record low is also 99.6%, the odds of a new extreme record high or low jumps to 99.999%.

It’s hardly impressive to write up yet another news article about a phenomenon that happens every single year. Obviously, it’s more newsworthy when the temperature is an extreme cold set in the middle of winter or an extreme high set in the middle of summer, but how impressive remains quite ambiguous without a graph like this:


The graph above shows the all-time record highs at Osoyoos from July 1st to September 7th plus the daily highs in 2020 up to July 30th.

Zooming in a bit highlights just how low the old record was. Yesterday’s old high was in fact the lowest daily record between July 8th and August 18th! In other words, it was very low hanging fruit. Had the 39.3°C occurred in any of the previous 7 days it would not have been a new record.


The graph below highlights the fact that 32 of the 42 days covered in the graph have more extreme highs than yesterday’s new record of 39.3°C.


Yes, it was a very hot day yesterday, but it was still a typical peak summer heat wave in southern British Columbia.

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All-Time NHL Shutout Leaders

When Roberto Luongo retired in 2019, he finished 9th all time for most regular season shutouts in NHL history with 77. This is an amazing feat given that he finished ahead of Hall of Fame goalies Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy while playing on worse team for the most part.

Certainly, he is destined to join the Hall of Fame.



Of course, the number of shutouts a goalie gets in his career comes down to a lot more than just raw talent or even playing on good teams. You need to play in the right era, and you usually need a long and healthy career.


Tiny Thompson, arguably the best goalie ever born in British Columbia

When we look at the top nine, three played in the 1920s and 1930s, three played in the 1950s to 1970s, and three played more recently. There’s a reason that no one who played in the 1980s is on the list (scoring was a lot higher in the 1980s than in any other decade).


All of the goalies in the top of the list could have done even better.


Alec Connell

The first three had relatively short careers of 11 to 12 years, with George Hainsworth not starting until the age of 33.


By that age, Terry Sawchuk was well past his prime. Major injuries and a troubled life were starting to have an impact by his mid 20s, so it’s really amazing he did hold the record of 103 shutouts for so many decades. Had Sawchuk had access to modern equipment, including a helmet, not been a chain smoking alcoholic nervous wreck, and had he not died prematurely, he could have been a lot higher in the shutout department.


Of course, the only goalie to beat his total, Martin Brodeur, missed out on one season because of the NHL 2004/05 lockout, plus had a shortened season from another union-owners dispute. Luongo and Hasek also faced the same disruptions in their careers, so their total numbers would have likely been higher. Hasek’s especially would have been higher up the list had he played more in the NHL instead of in Europe.


Jacques Plante had a long and storied career, playing until his mid 40s, but asthma forced him to retire twice before his final retirement after getting hit in the side of the head practicing with a junior team gave him a career ending injury.


Jacques Plante defies his coach’s orders in 1959 by putting on a mask after taking a puck in the face.

And then there’s Glenn Hall, who perhaps played up to his potential the best of anyone on the list by playing an NHL record 502 games in a row at one point — a record that will never be beaten. Every year he threatened to retire and not show up for the next season, but the team would convince him. Finally, in 1971 at the age of 39 he packed it in for good. He could have squeezed out a few more years at that point, I’m sure, but he played over 900 games in just 18 years.


His numbers were somewhat compromised by playing on teams that weren’t top team, so had he played on a better team, Hall’s shutout totals would have likely been higher than 84, that’s if he would have gotten the same amount of healthy playing time that Chicago gave him.

All this to say, when you look at the shutout leaders, and you see that none of them lived up to their full potential, you know that even Brodeur’s record of 125 shutouts is a beatable record.


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BC’s 2020 Coldsnap Highlights Blue River’s Amazing Microclimate

Now that we survived another winter, we can look back and assess the impact.

In mid-January a severe cold snap struck the central interior of BC, the likes of which had not been seen in close to 30 years in some places. Such extremes did not make it to the south where temperatures didn’t even drop below last year’s lows (the south’s winter highlights came in the snow variety).

The coldest places in the province were in the central interior plateaus as well as Blue River. Blue River is a really interesting place because it’s the only town in the Cariboo-Columbia snowbelt that gets excessive amounts of snow and extremely cold temperatures. In fact, no matter which direction you turn from Blue River the temperature rises as much as 20 degrees Celsius in a relatively short distance (we’re talking under 50km away).


The town’s unique microclimate starts with the shelter provided by towering mountains on either side (it’s the least windy place on earth). Blue River is located on a widened area of the North Thompson valley where three valleys meet, and this allows cold, dense air to sink to the lowest point of land. The exit to the south is a bottleneck shape that pinches off the flow of cold air leaving the community. That is to say, it’s far easier for cold air to settle in the town than it is to leave.


The temperatures on the map below reflect the extreme lows set in mid-January. Notice how Mica Dam, under 50km to the east, is 20 degrees warmer. Up the valley the temperature was 10 degrees warmer, and similar downriver in Vavenby. Just south of Blue River the high elevation forestry station showed a temperature eight degrees warmer as did the high elevation snow pillow station to the west.


Blue River was not the coldest place in the province, but it was by far the coldest place in the area. The only other locales in BC below 700m elevation that achieved such extreme temperatures were Vanderhoof and Prince George where lows not seen in almost 30 years occurred.

Blue River gets extremely cold despite moderation that occurs being in a relatively humid rain forest/snowbelt environment.

The other locations in the province with extreme temperatures are in much drier climates so the cold is more widespread.


The cold places on the Chilcotin and Nechako plateaus in particular are very dry. Understand this, Tatla Lake and Chilanko Forks are drier than Osoyoos despite sitting more than three times the distance above sea level. The same elevation around Osoyoos and the south Okanagan receives about 50% more precipitation (rain and snow increases with elevation).

The drier the area, the more extreme the temperatures. Thus, the coldest place in BC is often at Puntzi Mountain (Chilanko Forks) — a relatively high elevation valley bottom (910m), no wind, and very dry air, generating cold temperatures not found elsewhere south of the Yukon border.


The map above shows all the extreme minimum temperatures set in January of 2020. The areas outlined in red were the coldest spots. As one goes uphill from the valley bottoms, the temperatures did rise dramatically, though not as much as they do in the Blue River area.

For example, McBride on the far right side of the map shows a seven degree rise in a very short distance. Another spot we can see this is the Tatla Lake area where the temperature rose from -46°C at 940m elevation to -38°C at 1600m elevation.

Finally, notice how highway 16 follows the valley bottom (low spot across the central part of British Columbia), and then notice how the temperature typically rises as you move away from the highway to higher elevations.

This is a general trend as there are some higher elevation valleys on the plateau that trap cold air like Nazko.


Notice how the temperature trends up as the elevation rises

The table below is a list of the coldest temperatures found across the province on January 14th and 15th, but take note that some weather stations were not working at the time that may have made the cut, namely Anahim Lake where one person recorded a temperature of -51°C in their yard.

I did not include that figure on the map because backyard thermometers are not calibrated very well and are often situated in non-standard locations. I do not know what kind of quality control goes into forestry and highway thermometers, but the steep decline in the number of Environment Canada stations means that we need them to map out the temperature.

The table below lists all government thermometers that recorded a low of at least -42 Celsius.


Posted in Climate, Geography | 7 Comments